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Brunswick, R.M. (1943). The Accepted Lie. Psychoanal Q., 12:458-464.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:458-464

The Accepted Lie

Ruth Mack Brunswick

It is commonly asserted that women deviate more readily from the truth than men. The feminine reaction to such a statement is twofold: indignant denial on the one hand and, on the other, evasion, which somehow implies unconscious agreement. It is this latter attitude which would make it seem that the special choice of untruthfulness as a common and normal feminine trait deserves further scrutiny.

My clinical material was obtained unexpectedly and abruptly from a man treated by me some years ago. One day he entered my office and, still standing at the door, exclaimed: 'You are the damnedest liar I have ever known!' I was familiar with this man's irritability, but I was puzzled by the suddenness and severity of his outburst, which appeared without apparent analytic or external provocation like the product of a vast, eruptive force.

The early portion of the hour was filled with what the patient insisted were my lies. These were obviously projections on the part of an individual who had always made ample use of this mechanism. During these periods of projection the patient was singularly lacking in what at other times seemed, even for a compulsive individual, a high degree of true insight. Projection and insight alternated like a see-saw.

As the anger wore off, the type of accusation came into relief. My 'lies', which, the patient asserted, were those of most women, were lies of denial and omission. Thus, according to him, I had (untruthfully) denied having made certain important statements: I had failed to tell him this or that condition of analysis, possibly in order to trick him into coming to me. The implication was that if in these instances he had known the truth the would have had nothing more to do with me.

Invariably whatever I supposedly had said or left unsaid was a falsification of the facts in the direction of their denial.

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